Marianas Variety

Last updateWed, 25 Jul 2018 12am







    Monday, July 23, 2018-9:31:40A.M.






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NMI to have first 3D public presentation

THOSE who don’t, can’t or won’t dive will now have the chance to vicariously experience the underwater heritage trail through the three-dimensional documentary soon to be shown at American Memorial Park.

The documentary, funded by a National Park Service American Battlefield Protection Program grant, is about ready for showing to the public.

Archaeologists explore one of the underwater-heritage-trail sites.  Contributed photoArchaeologists explore one of the underwater-heritage-trail sites. Contributed photo

Flinders University senior lecturer and Ships of Discovery research associate Dr. Jennifer McKinnon, along with Ships of Discovery and Flinders University archaeologists and local divers and volunteers back in 2009 began the research on the underwater-heritage-trail sites on Saipan and ended up finding 12 sites that include World War II aircraft and ships like an Aichi E13A, Kawanishi H8K “Emily,” a TBM avenger, PBM Mariner, a Sherman tank, LVT (A)-4, a Japanese freighter, Daihatsu, and a possible subchaser.

Just before Easter, McKinnon’s Ships of Discovery colleague Dr. Toni Carrell and Windward Media senior writer and founding partner Veronica Veerkamp told Variety that the two-dimensional and three-dimensional, 18-to20-minute film on the island’s underwater heritage trail will soon be shown to the public at American Memorial Park.

“It will be the islands’ first 3D public presentation,” said Dr. Carrell.

Dr. Carrell said, “Last year, we were here gathering all the film footage. We were very excited about that.”

Dr. Carrell said two grants from the American Battlefield Protection Program of the National Park Service made the completion of the underwater heritage sites project possible.

“The grant actually started in 2009 — two grants back to back. They have been very good to us in supporting those efforts,” said Dr. Carrell referring to the American Battlefield Protection Program.

Dr. Carrell told Variety that the first grant covered the information gathering while the second produced the film as well as posters and underwater dive guides.

Veerkamp said the first two grants also covered conservation studies and developing the monitoring and management plan.

Asked further on what the documentary has to offer aside from it being in 3D format, Dr. Carrell said, “This particular collection of underwater sites is probably one of the more unique and diverse of any in the Pacific.

She said that there are certainly tanks or ships elsewhere. But to have all the various elements here, “all within ‘diveable’ range, still reasonably well preserved is really incredible.”

Dr. Carrell says, “For the people who are interested in this from the historical standpoint or just enjoy the natural beauty, this particular collection of underwater sites is just world class.”

Veerkamp could not agree more “One of the most unique, varied, and accessible collections of artifacts anywhere.”

No screening date has been set so far at American Memorial Park.

The heritage trail

McKinnon earlier told Variety that the underwater heritage trail is “a self-guided tour. You choose your own adventure.”

There’s the Grumman TBM Avenger, a U.S. Navy torpedo bomber, and one of the more widely produced naval strike aircraft in history.

The aircraft is upside down with its landing gear sticking up.

Another site is the wreckage of Kawanishi H8K or “Emily” that can be found in the Tanapag Lagoon or approximately 29 feet underwater.

The site features “Emily”’s gun turret, cockpit with chair and controls, painted fuselage and propellers.

An interesting dive site for Ships of Discovery is where they found Aichi E13A or “Jake,” — a Japanese plane found approximately 23 feet underwater that is also positioned upside-down.

What piqued the archaeologists’ interest in “Jake” is how this aircraft was dragged to the site. It’s thought that this could have been dumped at the site.

The archaeologists suspect that it could have been dumped because there’s a large section of landing gear that is not associated with the plane.

The trail also features the wreckage of the Japanese freighter Shoan Maru with its intact superstructure and bow section.

Aside from this, there is also the site of a possible submarine chaser lying on its starboard side with an intact bow structure and collapsed and disarticulated hull section.

There are also two Daihatsu landing craft that are 350 feet apart, three semi-submerged Sherman tanks, and an amphibious tractor or LVT.

All these and more will be seen in the three-dimensional documentary to be shown at American Memorial Park.

For more information on the underwater heritage trail, go to